September 2011

Sep 1  Protest leaders in Syria have been insisting on non-violence, rejecting the path that the Libyan uprising has taken. They describe this as the moral high ground, and there is some hope, expressed in an article published by BBC News, that "the largely Sunni trading classes of Damascus and Aleppo" will desert the regime as the new sanctions against Syria "begin to bite."

Sep 1  Today is the deadline for Libya's ambassador to leave Zimbabwe – kicked out for supporting Libya's new anti-Gaddafi regime. Zimbabwe's authoritarian ruler, Robert Mugabe, supports Gaddafi. He condemns NATO's role in Libya and says the conflict in Libya is really about oil.

Sep 2  The European Union buys 95% of Syria's oil exports, which accounts for 25% of Syria's national income, and today the European Union has banned its importation. And it's Friday, going to mosque day – a day of protests in Syria. According to BBC News, protests are going forward today under the slogan "death rather than humiliation" – not a slogan heard among those resisting British rule, overthrowing the tsar or marching with M.L. King in the American South.

Sep 3  A report out of Syria claims that 20 people were killed yesterday during protests across Syria. Eight are said to have been killed when security forces intervened to disperse protests in several suburbs of Damascus.

Sep 5  Illegal immigrant boat arrivals in Australia have been increasing: 7 in 2008, 61 in 2009, 134 in 2010. Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the Labour Party wants to do something about it. Unlike her predessesor, Kevin Rudd, also of the Labour Party, she is against a "big Australia" and warns that "Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population."

Sep 6  Amid public debate, Italy's conservative government is revising its austerity package. Sales taxes are due to rise, a balance-the-budget law is to be put into the constitution, and changes to the retirement age will be made. The Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Italy's most powerful trade union (5.5 million members) is striking, and it demands stronger action against tax dodgers.

Sep 7  In the Washington Post, columnist Ruth Marcus looks at presidential candidate Mitt Romney's rhetorical "Career politicians got us into this mess and career politicians can't get us out!" She complains that one person's career politician is another person's devoted public servant, that knowledge that comes with experience can be helpful in working on complicated issues. She says she would argue that "President Obama's current difficulties stem less from his being a 'career politician' than from the fact that his political career was so brief before he won the White House."

Sep 9  Hundreds of people are dying every day in Somalia's famine, according to reports. The UN estimates that four million people, more than half of Somalia's population, are living in famine zones – mostly in the south of the country, still controlled> by Islamic extremists. The UN's food agency, the World Food Program, prohibits its staff from moving beyond the airport military base at Somalia's largest city and capital, Mogadishu, and the UN agency is having trouble finding shipping companies willing to send their vessels to Mogadishu through the pirate-infested waters.

Sep 10  None of us like paying taxes, even while we splash money around on junk food and other frivolities and our infrastructure is rotting and we're not paying for our wars. On the 8th, President Obama called on Congress to pass an economic growth plan that consists of no tax increases for the average American. Instead it offers payroll-tax cuts for employees and employers – to stimulate spending, stimulate the economy and an appeal to business-minded Republican lawmakers. Businesses are willing to borrow money for investments they think will produce profits, but many Republicans are claiming that Obama's plan is just more stimulus spending that does not work.

Sep 12  The economist Robert Reich compares the US today with where it was at the end of World War II when the nation had an enormous debt from government spending on war and other programs. At first many feared that another great depression was on the way. (I heard my parents arguing about it.) Rather than rescinding Roosevelt's New Deal there was the government's huge program for veterans in education – the G.I. Bill – and home loans. The US was on its way to reducing the debt not by tax cuts but by economic growth that continued during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower (who has been called a New Deal Republican). Eisenhower launched a great infrastructure project – the national highway system.

Sep 13  Libya's ambassador to the United States, Ali Suleiman Aujali, writes: "Our road map for building democracy and civil society includes the drafting of a constitution by a representative authority, the approval of the constitution by a popular referendum and, then, for the first time in Libya's history, holding free elections for a representative government. There is a great deal of work ahead. One of our most important tasks will be preventing further unrest. The order of the day must be justice and not revenge.

Sep 14  Journalist Nicholas Shaxson writes: "Over half of world trade passes, at least on paper, through tax havens. Over half of all bank assets, and a third of foreign direct investment by multinational corporations, are routed offshore.... The United States is estimated to be losing $100 billion annually from offshore tax abuses."

Sep 17  The liberal-conservative coalition in power in Denmark was talking about keeping Denmark on its successful path of sustainable economic growth. But a close election two days ago is bringing to power a left-of-center coalition led by Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt, 44, who will be Denmark's first woman prime minister. She is reported as having campaigned on a platform of tax rises and increased public spending. Meanwhile, Denmark's revenues are almost 80% of its GDP compared to 14.2% in 2010 for the United States. Denmark's unemployment rate is around 4.2% compared to 9.1% for the United States. Denmark's national debt is something like half that of the United States, and the Danes worry about the US economy because the US is a buyer of their exports.

Sep 18  Meeting in Istanbul days ago, Syrian opposition groups have agreed on a single body, a Syrian National Council, to represent them. Yesterday more than 200 "opposition figures" met at a private farm in Syria, near Damascus, in an effort to unite anti-government groups.

photo of Vince Cable

Vince Cable, pro-business economist

Sep 18  Chinese villagers in Zhejiang province have stormed a factory they fear is endangering people with environmental pollution. Several company cars were overturned and offices were destroyed.

Sep 18  In Jakarta dozens of women wearing miniskirts protest, one sign reading: "My miniskirt, my right." Another sign reads, "Don't tell us how to dress; tell them not to rape." Jakarta's governor, Fauzi Bowo, responds with an apology for warning females that they can avoid being raped by not wearing short skirts.

Sep 19  Government authorities close down the offending factory in China's Zhejiang province following the riotous protests of villagers.

Sep 19  Business Secretary Vince Cable, in the cabinet of David Cameron's conservative government, declares that "This is not a time for business as usual or politics as usual." He speaks of the UK rebuilding its broken economy and of his support for "responsible capitalism." He expresses his concern regarding "vast disparities in wealth" and his commitment to a "reduction in the tax burden on low and middle earners [while] the wealthiest continue to pay the most."

Sep 20  President Obama says the wealthy and corporations should pay their "fair share" to cut the deficit. John Boehner, House of Representatives Speaker, responds, saying,"Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership." He accuses Obama of class warfare.

Sep 22  Across Saudi Arabia campaigning for municipal elections has begun. No government institution is allowed to provide any moral or financial support to a candidate. Candidates are not allowed to campaign as a member of a group or tribe or to use religious or historical identifications. Candidates are obliged to keep their sources of financial support transparent.

Sep 23  Rupiah Banda of Zambia expresses satisfaction that the election he lost on September 20 was done in a democratic and civilized way. The new president, Michael Sata, is sworn in today and speaks of his commitment to the rule of law and to fighting poverty and corruption.

Sep 24  At the United Nations yesterday Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas received a standing ovation by the General Assembly as he submitted a bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. He wants pre-1967 borders and describes Israeli settlement building as colonial military occupation and an obstacle to resolution with Israel. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyaho, also spoke. He claimed that the issue of the settlements can be resolved and suggested that Israel continues to occupy the West Bank for the sake of its security. He wants a deal with the Palestinians that offers Israel peace rather than the rain of rockets that followed Israel pulling out of Gaza.

Sep 26  Fear of economic disaster in Europe abounds. Greece owes more money than it can possibly pay. Euro countries, Britain and Republicans in the US are in an austerity mode while some economists, Austan Goolsbee in the US among them, speak of austerity as not providing the growth needed to emerge from the crises. Paul Krugman complains that some in Europe "don't seem at all ready to acknowledge a crucial fact – namely, that without more expansionary fiscal and monetary policies in Europe's stronger economies, all of their rescue attempts will fail." Goolsbee states that it is crucial that focus now be put on economic growth rather than austerity. Economic growth, of course, increases revenues, and revenues are needed to pay down debt.

Sep 28  Continuing the debate between conservative and liberal economists, Robert Reich claims that, "Austerity economics causes higher unemployment, generating lower government revenues, which increases government debt, causing more cuts and higher taxes." Conservatives on the other hand are applauding austerity measures and attacking what they consider profligacy. Some believe that Greece's problem has been more tax-evasion than profligacy, and today in Greece people with that view continue their demonstations against the government's austerity strategy.

Sep 30   Bahrain's court system sends twenty medics, doctors and nurses, to prison on sentences of 5 to 15 years. The medics had been released on bail. A government spokesman described the medics as having been involved with hardline protesters seeking regime change. The court has also upheld life sentences for eight Shia activists convicted of participating in protests.

Sep 30  A Danish court has sentenced fifteen members of a motorcycle gang to jail for six murder attempts against rival gang members. Motorcycle gangs in Denmark?

August | to October

Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.